By: Judy Mann
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.’ Margaret Mead. I firmly believe in this quote and never has it been so clear as in the celebration of South Africa’s first Marine Protected Areas Day, on the 1 August 2021.
The idea to launch MPA Day started with the realisation that very few South African’s know that our country has marine protected areas (MPAs) along the coast and in our ocean. Our goals were modest – generate an awareness of MPAs amongst South Africans, build an understanding of the importance of these places for both people and nature, and encourage support for MPAs. The first step was the most important – find a team of people passionate about the ocean and MPAs, with a diversity of skills to make the day a reality. The MPA Day Alliance included two communication experts and four conservation organisations. With absolutely no budget this tiny team managed to generate an incredible amount of media, support and interest.
Media during the build up to the day was vital for its success. Social media included Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the MPA websites MPA day — Marine Protected Areas South Africa and MPA DAY | SAAMBR, and the generation of informative fact sheets and maps for educators and others. Traditional media included articles in almost 40 newspapers, 4 magazines, radio and TV interviews and over 100 online articles. This was all done pro-bono by FLOW Communications and Olivia Jones Communications, with the support of Two Oceans Aquarium and Dyer Island Conservation Trust.
Activities on the day included a Virtual Tour of four MPAs, with live crossings to meet the people and some of the animals living in those MPAs #mpaday – YouTube, exhibits in the uShaka Sea World and Two Oceans Aquarium, beach clean-ups and special displays in MPAs and much more. The social media, including a #MPADay Twitter chat, ensured that during the last week of July and 1 August over 2.7 million people were reached on social media. We are very grateful to everyone who made these events happen – from those in the MPAs testing out their broadcasting skills, our brilliant poets and beautiful songwriters, those who organised displays and events, to the Twitter influencers who expanded our reach.
But – these numbers only touch on what made MPA Day such a success. It was the energy of everyone who was asked to help. Every single person agreed with enthusiasm and then did way more than expected. Indeed – this small group of thoughtful and committed citizens really did change the world for MPAs in South Africa. We exceed our goals in every way and we know that this is just the start of an annual celebration for our oceans and the special protected areas that we need for ocean and human survival.
Finally – thank-you to the MPA Day Alliance and our behind-the-scenes supporters – working with you is simply incredible.